Yes, it is technically still summer. But many skiers already have shifted their thinking from beach days and backyard barbecues to untracked snow and double fall lines. We might be borderline obsessed, but planning early for the ski season can be incredibly important, especially for families with young children and those new to the sport who need to get themselves equipped.
Many local ski and snowboard shops offer seasonal equipment lease programs, which provide tremendous convenience and value for customers. Most programs cater to juniors, but there also are long-term rental options available for adults. Either way, the time to move on them is now.
“We start fitting for leases the second week of August and encourage families to come no later than October,” Kevin Barrows, social media marketing manager at Proctor Ski and Board in Nashua, N.H., said. “However, we are open to lease equipment until the snow is gone.”
Village Ski and Snowboard in Franklin, Mass., begins its rental fittings as soon as they open in August and continue renting gear throughout the season. “Our annual customers know it is best to come in for fitting early in the season,” said Keith Brachold, the store manager.
Country Ski and Sport, which offers season rentals out of its stores in Quincy, Hanover and Westwood, Mass., has added a new perk for junior renters this year: Free skiing. The store is giving a season pass to Saddleback Mountain to anyone 18 or under who rents equipment for the season.
Gorham Bike and Ski, which has a half-dozen shop locations in Maine and New Hampshire, typically launches its junior rentals program on Oct. 1. “As we get deeper into the winter season, it becomes a little harder to have enough inventory in all the sizes, but we do our best to make it work,” said Sara Thomson, who manages the store located in North Conway, N.H. “This year we have expanded our junior rental fleet to help make sure that we can provide for all our customers.”
Most ski shops run their equipment lease programs similarly. At Proctor Ski and Board, children are measured and fitted in the fall for skis/snowboards and boots, which can be kept and used through the end of the season.
“If during the season they happen upon one of those classic growth spurts, the option to visit us for a new size of boot, skis or both is always available,” Barrows said. “We provide a one-stop, full set-up experience that takes a lot of worry and coordination off of parents’ plates and gets the family out on the slopes in quality, well-fitted gear, guaranteed for the season.”
Junior lease packages start for as little as $99 at Proctor Ski and Board if customers commit in the spring for the following winter. That’s a $30 discount.
“And as far as mid-season goes, lease customers can always visit us to exchange equipment that isn’t working just right for them, and we always encourage having your skis tuned up after a few days on the slopes. Our tune shop is running August to April,” Barrows said.
Proctor Ski and Board leases both used and new equipment for adults, too. “Many people are just looking to get their feet wet in these sports we love, to maybe spend time with their kids or because they are new to snowy winters,” Barrows said. “Whatever the reason, we have quality equipment of a few varieties to make sure you’re fitted well and your experiences on the slopes are good ones.”
Adults leasing new equipment have the option to buy at a rate that factors in what they’ve invested in the rental. “Additionally, we have a boot fit guarantee on any new boot purchased here that covers any customization the boot needs in the first season,” Barrows said.
Village Ski offers seasonal leasing options for all age groups. “For adults who are looking to make the transitional step away from daily rentals, but still not ready to purchase gear, seasonal leasing is a great option,” Brachold said. “We also have a number of adults who have skied in the past and are eager to get back into the sport but want to take advantage of the many advancements modern ski equipment has to offer.”
At Gorham Bike and Ski, junior ski lease packages start at $129. And if a child’s original boot or ski size changes in the middle of the season, parents can simply swap them out for no charge.
“Rentals are great for families who are just starting out, only ski a few times a year, have limited storage, or have kids that are still growing,” Thomson said. “Skis can be expensive when you are outfitting a family, especially with kids. The seasonal leases are great because they are typically less expensive than what you would pay for purchasing new and you return it at the end of the season. You don’t need to worry about keeping it stored anywhere or if the gear will still fit next year.”
Lease programs operate on a first-come, first-served basis, which is why the experts advise setting yourself up sooner rather than later. Coming off the inventory challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, ski equipment supplies for 2022-23 have improved and stores are reporting quick and consistent fulfillment of their orders.
But the industry also is experiencing a bump in participation, thereby increasing demand for hard goods.
“Our orders are almost 100 percent fulfilled and the current selection is great, but we are not expecting to see a surplus in secondary manufacturing, meaning once the initial excitement settles, we might have a lean second half,” Brachold said.
Shop professionals also advise families to resist placing equipment orders — especially for first-time skiers and children — online, where they will not have the luxury of trying on boots for proper fit and talking with experts about different equipment choices.
“Correct fitting and services such as adjustment and ski setup are so important during this process,” Brachold said. “This has helped full-service ski shops, like Village Ski, stay protected from losing sales to Internet shopping. Even with all of the in-vogue ‘fit guides’ and ‘speak with an expert’ features online sites now implement, skiers know this is not a viable alternative to having someone trained in stance alignment assess their feet and help them through the selection process.”
Thomson said there is no substitute for talking with someone one-on-one in the shop. “It’s our job to know all the differences and to guide you through the process. What’s in the magazines and reviews is done by professional skiers typically in some non-New England conditions. Most of us who work at Gorham Bike and Ski have been on 90 percent of the skis that we carry and have tried on every boot that we have so that we can really know what the feel is for each product.”
Barrows agreed. “All of our employees here at Proctor Ski and Board have been skiing or boarding for a majority of their respective lives,” he said. “We all have experience on the mountain and knowledge about specific products that we bring to the table when a customer walks in the store. There are many reasons to shop in-store rather than online, whether it be for environmental reasons or for personal interaction, but the most important thing is being properly fit into the correct equipment for you.”
Customers might just feed off the passion of their local shop professionals as well.
“I’m always ecstatic to share tips, tricks, technical data and experiences to help everyone make their next day on snow a great one — from a 5-year-old who will be skiing for the first time, to a backcountry addict, to a parent getting back into the sport,” said James Rothenberg, service manager at Proctor Bike and Ski. “For me, just a little thing like seeing a child use the tip for putting on a ski boot that I showed them a year later might be the most satisfying thing I experience here.”
Thomson said working in the industry is a passion job that “we do because it’s what we love. There is nothing more exciting than getting a family, or anyone really, set up and they are excited. Being able to share that excitement with others and watching them grow to love the sport is always inspiring and a great reminder of why we do it.”